Архив метки: Europe

Facebook shares shoot up after strong Q4 earnings despite data breach

Facebook managed to beat Wall Street’s estimates in its Q4 earnings amidst a constant beat down in the press. Facebook hit 2.32 billion monthly users, up 2.2 perecent from 2.27 billion last quarter, speeding up its growth rate. Facebook climbed to 1.52 billion daily active users from 1.49 billion last quarter for a 2 percent growth rate that dwarfed last quarter’s 1.36 percent.
Facebook earned $16.91 billion off all those users with a $2.38 GAAP earnings per share. Those numbers handily beat Wall Street’s expectations of $16.39 billion in revenue and $2.18 GAAP earnings per share, plus 2.32 billion monthly and 1.51 billion daily active users. Facebook’s daily to monthly user ratio, or stickiness, held firm at 66 percent where it’s stayed for years, showing those still on Facebook aren’t using it much less.

Facebook shares had closed today at $150.42 but shot up over 11 percent following the record revenue and profit announcements to hover around $167. A big 30 percent year-over-year boost in average revenue per user in North America fueled those gains. Yet that’s still down from $186 where it was a year ago and a peak of $217 in July.
CEO Mark Zuckerberg went beyond his usual intro to the earnings report where he assures investors things are going well and highlights new opportunities. This quarter he noted “We’ve fundamentally changed how we run our company to focus on the biggest social issues, and we’re investing more to build new and inspiring ways for people to connect.”
Squeezing Money From The Olds
Facebook managed to grow its DAU in both the critical US & Canada and Europe markets where it earns the most money after stagnation or shrinkage in previous quarters. The fact that Facebook is no longer dwindling it its most lucrative markets is surely contributing to its share price climb. Facebook’s monthly active user plateaued in North America but roared up in Europe. That was shored up by a reversal of last quarter’s decline in Rest Of World average revenue per user, which fell 4.7% in Q3 but bounced back with 16.5 percent growth in Q4.

 
Facebook raked in $6.8 billion in profit this quarter as it slowed down hiring and only grew headcount 5 percent from 33,606 to 35,587. It seems Facebook has gotten to a comfortable place with its security staff-up in the wake of election interference, fake news, and content moderation troubles. Its revenue is up 30 percent year-over-year while profits grew 61 percent, which is pretty remarkable for a 15-year old technology company.
Earnings Call
Facebook’s plan to concentrate on product innovation in 2019 after focusing on security in 2018 was the core of today’s earnings call. Zuckerberg laid out a product roadmap for more ephemerality and encryption, how unifying the infrastructure of Facebook’s messaging apps will better connect Marketplace to WhatsApp, Groups will become an organizing function for more of the Facebook experience, and shopping features will crop up across the family of apps. You can read Zuckerberg’s full opening statement here.

Facebook plans new products as Instagram Stories hits 500M users/day

New stats included 500 million daily Instagram Stories users and 2 million advertisers on Stories. Zuckerberg said he was pleasantly surprised by Facebook Portal sales but didn’t give specifics. He revealed 2.7 billion people now use Facebook’s family of apps each month. However, CFO David Wehner warned the company would eventually stop sharing Facebook-only stats, presumably to mask the shift of younger users to its other apps. He also cautioned that due to the shift of users from feeds to Stories that Facebook has less experience monetizing, and targeting headwinds due to increased privacy scrutiny, Facebook predicts mid-single digit revenue growth rate reductions each quarter this year.

We just released our community update and quarterly results.We’ve fundamentally changed how we run our company to…
Posted by Mark Zuckerberg on Wednesday, January 30, 2019

While the quarter went well, morale isn’t quite as rosy. It’s been a brutal quarter for Facebook At least its swifter user growth rates show Facebook survived its biggest ever data breach without scaring off too many people. Meanwhile it’s continuously struggled with scandals like hiring opposition research firm Definers, and it saw its new teen app Lasso largely flop. Facebook will have to convince investors it knows how to win back the next generation, or at least keep squeezong a lot more money out of the last one like it did in Q4.

Facebook shares shoot up after strong Q4 earnings despite data breach

Jack to the future for Huawei? P30 leak hints at the return of the headphone port

Huawei, currently the world’s second-largest smartphone company by sales, has won over users partly by loading its devices with a ton of new features, from wireless charging to top-class cameras and catchy cosmetic features like the colorful gradients on their shiny backsides. Now, a leaked image of its next flagship Android phone appears to reveal a surprising reverse course. According to Indian blog 91phones (and via Engadget) its next premium device, dubbed the P30, will feature a HEADPHONE JACK.
What’s that, you say? Aren’t headphone jacks so yesterday?
Well, it turns out that sometimes progress isn’t universally loved. (Pour one out for the futurists here.)
Over the past couple of years, Apple and others have gradually removed the jack from their devices.
Yes, it’s been done in the name of thinner handsets and more features like waterproofing. But — let’s be honest — also most likely also to up-sell people to those very pricey, sometimes pretentious-looking wireless earphones.
But you know what? People — say, those who have a favorite set of corded headphones, or who hate the idea of losing the ability to charge using said headphones — are still missing those inky black holes.
Huawei has been no different, removing its jack in the P30’s P20 predecessor.
But the leaked image reveals that it seems to be making a return in the familiar lower edge of the handset, to the left of the USB-C charging port.
Other features revealed in this and previous leaks of the phone include a six-inch screen, more of that gradient backing, a 24MP selfie camera in a streamlined notch on the front, with a Sony triple camera at 38MP with 5x optical zoom on the back, and no fingerprint sensor port, with the device likely to be shipping in 128GB and 256GB versions.
Huawei overtook Apple as the world’s second largest smartphone vendor in Q2 of 2018, and the last two quarters have only cemented that position. In Q3, only Samsung (the leader) and Huawei saw shipment growth among all the top players; and as for Q4, well, Apple’s given us a little preview of what we will expect there.
Interestingly, Apple specifically has singled out China as a disappointing market when it comes to iPhone sales: Huawei happens to be the market leader there.
So — if this leak is accurate — it’s interesting to think that as Huawei grows often by aggressively following the playbook of other brands, it may be making a bold move by bringing something back that appeared to have gotten discarded in the tech march forward.
If its pace of handset sales continues to stay strong, this could be coming at a key time for Huawei. The company remains in hot water with governments in Europe, the US and elsewhere over questionable and potentially illegal business practices, and that appears to be potentially impacting its massive telecoms equipment business and its lucrative deals with carriers.
As for when this supposed phone might launch, we’re just about to kick off CES in Vegas, but it’s unlikely to appear here. The P20 launched in March last year, a few weeks after the big MWC mobile event in Barcelona, and that could potentially be the same timescale the company follows again.
We’re contacting Huawei for comment and will update this post as we learn more.

Jack to the future for Huawei? P30 leak hints at the return of the headphone port

Tech giants offer empty apologies because users can’t quit

A true apology consists of a sincere acknowledgement of wrong-doing, a show of empathic remorse for why you wronged and the harm it caused, and a promise of restitution by improving ones actions to make things right. Without the follow-through, saying sorry isn’t an apology, it’s a hollow ploy for forgiveness.
That’s the kind of “sorry” we’re getting from tech giants — an attempt to quell bad PR and placate the afflicted, often without the systemic change necessary to prevent repeated problems. Sometimes it’s delivered in a blog post. Sometimes it’s in an executive apology tour of media interviews. But rarely is it in the form of change to the underlying structures of a business that caused the issue.
Intractable Revenue
Unfortunately, tech company business models often conflict with the way we wish they would act. We want more privacy but they thrive on targeting and personalization data. We want control of our attention but they subsist on stealing as much of it as possible with distraction while showing us ads. We want safe, ethically built devices that don’t spy on us but they make their margins by manufacturing them wherever’s cheap with questionable standards of labor and oversight. We want groundbreaking technologies to be responsibly applied, but juicy government contracts and the allure of China’s enormous population compromise their morals. And we want to stick to what we need and what’s best for us, but they monetize our craving for the latest status symbol or content through planned obsolescence and locking us into their platforms.

The result is that even if their leaders earnestly wanted to impart meaningful change to provide restitution for their wrongs, their hands are tied by entrenched business models and the short-term focus of the quarterly earnings cycle. They apologize and go right back to problematic behavior. The Washington Post recently chronicled a dozen times Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has apologized, yet the social network keeps experiencing fiasco after fiasco. Tech giants won’t improve enough on their own.
Addiction To Utility
The threat of us abandoning ship should theoretically hold the captains in line. But tech giants have evolved into fundamental utilities that many have a hard time imagining living without. How would you connect with friends? Find what you needed? Get work done? Spend your time? What hardware or software would you cuddle up with in the moments you feel lonely? We live our lives through tech, have become addicted to its utility, and fear the withdrawal.
If there were principled alternatives to switch to, perhaps we could hold the giants accountable. But the scalability, network effects, and aggregation of supply by distributors has led to near monopolies in these core utilities. The second-place solution is often distant. What’s the next best social network that serves as an identity and login platform that isn’t owned by Facebook? The next best premium mobile and PC maker behind Apple? The next best mobile operating system for the developing world beyond Google’s Android? The next best ecommerce hub that’s not Amazon? The next best search engine? Photo feed? Web hosting service? Global chat app? Spreadsheet?
Facebook is still growing in the US & Canada despite the backlash, proving that tech users aren’t voting with their feet. And if not for a calculation methodology change, it would have added 1 million users in Europe this quarter too.
One of the few tech backlashes that led to real flight was #DeleteUber. Workplace discrimination, shady business protocols, exploitative pricing and more combined to spur the movement to ditch the ridehailing app. But what was different here is that US Uber users did have a principled alternative to switch to without much hassle: Lyft. The result was that “Lyft benefitted tremendously from Uber’s troubles in 2018” eMarketer’s forecasting director Shelleen Shum told the USA Today in May. Uber missed eMarketer’s projections while Lyft exceeded them, narrowing the gap between the car services. And meanwhile, Uber’s CEO stepped down as it tried to overhaul its internal policies.
This is why we need regulation that promotes competition by preventing massive mergers and giving users the right to interoperable data portability so they can easily switch away from companies that treat them poorly
But in the absence of viable alternatives to the giants, leaving these mainstays is inconvenient. After all, they’re the ones that made us practically allergic to friction. Even after massive scandals, data breaches, toxic cultures, and unfair practices, we largely stick with them to avoid the uncertainty of life without them. Even Facebook added 1 million monthly users in the US and Canada last quarter despite seemingly every possible source of unrest. Tech users are not voting with their feet. We’ve proven we can harbor ill will towards the giants while begrudgingly buying and using their products. Our leverage to improve their behavior is vastly weakened by our loyalty.
Inadequate Oversight
Regulators have failed to adequately step up either. This year’s congressional hearings about Facebook and social media often devolved into inane and uninformed questioning like how does Facebook earn money if its doesn’t charge? “Senator, we run ads” Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said with a smirk. Other times, politicians were so intent on scoring partisan points by grandstanding or advancing conspiracy theories about bias that they were unable to make any real progress. A recent survey commissioned by Axios found that “In the past year, there has been a 15-point spike in the number of people who fear the federal government won’t do enough to regulate big tech companies — with 55% now sharing this concern.”

Regulation could protect Facebook, not punish it

When regulators do step in, their attempts can backfire. GDPR was supposed to help tamp down on the dominance of Google and Facebook by limiting how they could collect user data and making them more transparent. But the high cost of compliance simply hindered smaller players or drove them out of the market while the giants had ample cash to spend on jumping through government hoops. Google actually gained ad tech market share and Facebook saw the littlest loss while smaller ad tech firms lost 20 or 30 percent of their business.
Europe’s GDPR privacy regulations backfired, reinforcing Google and Facebook’s dominance. Chart via Ghostery, Cliqz, and WhoTracksMe.
Even the Honest Ads act, which was designed to bring political campaign transparency to internet platforms following election interference in 2016, has yet to be passed even despite support from Facebook and Twitter. There’s hasn’t been meaningful discussion of blocking social networks from acquiring their competitors in the future, let alone actually breaking Instagram and WhatsApp off of Facebook. Governments like the U.K. that just forcibly seized documents related to Facebook’s machinations surrounding the Cambridge Analytica debacle provide some indication of willpower. But clumsy regulation could deepen the moats of the incumbents, and prevent disruptors from gaining a foothold. We can’t depend on regulators to sufficiently protect us from tech giants right now.
Our Hope On The Inside
The best bet for change will come from the rank and file of these monolithic companies. With the war for talent raging, rock star employees able to have huge impact on products, and compensation costs to keep them around rising, tech giants are vulnerable to the opinions of their own staff. It’s simply too expensive and disjointing to have to recruit new high-skilled workers to replace those that flee.
Google declined to renew a contract with the government after 4000 employees petitioned and a few resigned over Project Maven’s artificial intelligence being used to target lethal drone strikes. Change can even flow across company lines. Many tech giants including Facebook and Airbnb have removed their forced arbitration rules for harassment disputes after Google did the same in response to 20,000 of its employees walking out in protest.
Thousands of Google employees protested the company’s handling of sexual harassment and misconduct allegations on Nov. 1.
Facebook is desperately pushing an internal communications campaign to reassure staffers it’s improving in the wake of damning press reports from the New York Times and others. TechCrunch published an internal memo from Facebook’s outgoing VP of communications Elliot Schrage in which he took the blame for recent issues, encouraged employees to avoid finger-pointing, and COO Sheryl Sandberg tried to reassure employees that “I know this has been a distraction at a time when you’re all working hard to close out the year — and I am sorry.” These internal apologizes could come with much more contrition and real change than those paraded for the public.
And so after years of us relying on these tech workers to build the product we use every day, we must now rely that will save us from them. It’s a weighty responsibility to move their talents where the impact is positive, or commit to standing up against the business imperatives of their employers. We as the public and media must in turn celebrate when they do what’s right for society, even when it reduces value for shareholders. If apps abuse us or unduly rob us of our attention, we need to stay off of them.
And we must accept that shaping the future for the collective good may be inconvenient for the individual. There’s an oppprtunity here not just to complain or wish, but to build a social movement that holds tech giants accountable for delivering the change they’ve promised over and over.

For more on this topic:

Internal Facebook memo sees outgoing VP of comms Schrage take blame for hiring Definers

The real threat to Facebook is the Kool-Aid turning sour

Google walkout organizers aren’t satisfied with CEO’s response

Facebook and the endless string of worst-case scenarios

Tech giants offer empty apologies because users can’t quit

Xiaomi gobbles up selfie phone brand Meitu as revenue jumps 49%

Xiaomi is diversifying into a new range of phones as the Chinese smartphone maker announced impressive growth with its latest financials.
The company announced it will take over selfie app maker Meitu’s smartphone business to go after new demographics, particularly women, while it lodged impressive 49 percent revenue growth in Q3.
Xiaomi posted a net profit of 2.481 billion RMB ($357 million) for the quarter on total sales of 50.846 billion RMB ($7.3 billion). The bulk of that income came from smartphones sales — 35 billion RMB, $5 billion — as Xiaomi surpassed its annual target of 100 million shipments with two months of the year still to go. The majority of those phones are sold in China, but the company said that international revenue overall was up by 113 percent year-on-year.
The company has ventured into Europe this year, with its most recent launch in the UK this month, but now it is taking aim at a more diverse set of customers in the Chinese market through this tie-in with Meitu. Best known for its ‘beautification’ selfie apps, Meitu also sells smartphones that tap its selfie brand with optimized cameras and advanced editing features.
Now Xiaomi is taking over that business through a partnership that will see Meitu paid 10 percent of the profits for all devices sold, with a minimum guaranteed fee of $10 million per year. For other smart products, its cut increases to 15 percent.
Meitu is hardly a mainstream phone brand. Its first device launched in 2013 and it has sold 3.5 million units to date. Recently, the company cut back on its hardware — it has launched just one device this year compared to five last year — while the average sell price of its devices has fallen, causing it to forecast a net loss of up to 1.2 billion RMB (or $173 million) up from just 197 million RMB last year. Shifting the heavy-lifting to Xiaomi makes a lot of sense — despite its total cut of sales dropping to just 10 percent, Xiaomi has impressive reach and a sales platform that already features third-party hardware.
Back to Xiaomi, these results are its first ‘true’ financials since the company went public through a Hong Kong IPO back in July. It posted a $2.1 billion profit in the previous quarter but a large chunk of spending and revenue was down to the listing.

Xiaomi gobbles up selfie phone brand Meitu as revenue jumps 49%

FCC approval of Europe’s Galileo satellite signals may give your phone’s GPS a boost

The FCC’s space-focused meeting today had actions taken on SpaceX satellites and orbital debris reduction, but the decision most likely to affect users has to do with Galileo . No, not the astronomer — the global positioning satellite constellation put in place by the E.U. over the last few years. It’s now legal for U.S. phones to use, and a simple software update could soon give your GPS signal a major bump.
Galileo is one of several successors to the Global Positioning System that’s been in use since the ’90s. But because it is U.S.-managed and was for a long time artificially limited in accuracy to everyone but U.S. military, it should come as no surprise that European, Russian and Chinese authorities would want their own solutions. Russia’s GLONASS is operational and China is hard at work getting its BeiDou system online.
The E.U.’s answer to GPS was Galileo, and the 26 (out of 30 planned) satellites making up the constellation offer improved accuracy and other services, such as altitude positioning. Test satellites went up as early as 2005, but it wasn’t until 2016 that it began actually offering location services.
A Galileo satellite launch earlier this year.
Devices already existed that would take advantage of Galileo signals — all the way back to the iPhone 6s, the Samsung Galaxy S7 and many others from that era forward. It just depends on the wireless chip inside the phone or navigation unit, and it’s pretty much standard now. (There’s a partial list of smartphones supporting Galileo here.)
When a company sells a new phone, it’s much easier to just make a couple million of the same thing rather than make tiny changes like using a wireless chipset in U.S. models that doesn’t support Galileo. The trade-off in savings versus complexity of manufacturing and distribution just isn’t worthwhile.
The thing is, American phones couldn’t use Galileo because the FCC has regulations against having ground stations being in contact with foreign satellites. Which is exactly what using Galileo positioning is, though of course it’s nothing sinister.
If you’re in the U.S., then, your phone likely has the capability to use Galileo but it has been disabled in software. The FCC decision today lets device makers change that, and the result could be much-improved location services. (One band not very compatible with existing U.S. navigation services has been held back, but two of the three are now available.)
Interestingly enough, however, your phone may already be using Galileo without your or the FCC’s knowledge. Because the capability is behind a software lock, it’s possible that a user could install an app or service bringing it into use. Perhaps you travel to Europe a lot and use a French app store and navigation app designed to work with Galileo and it unlocked the bands. There’d be nothing wrong with that.

Or perhaps you installed a custom ROM that included the ability to check the Galileo signal. That’s technically illegal, but the thing is there’s basically no way for anyone to tell! The way these systems work, all you’d be doing is receiving a signal illegally that your phone already supports and that’s already hitting its antennas every second — so who’s going to report you?
It’s unlikely that phone makers have secretly enabled the Galileo frequencies on U.S. models, but as Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel pointed out in a statement accompanying the FCC action, that doesn’t mean it isn’t happening:
If you read the record in this proceeding and others like it, it becomes clear that many devices in the United States are already operating with foreign signals. But nowhere in our record is there a good picture of how many devices in this country are interacting with these foreign satellite systems, what it means for compliance with our rules, and what it means for the security of our systems. We should change that. Technology has gotten ahead of our approval policies and it’s time for a true-up.
She isn’t suggesting a crackdown — this is about regulation lagging behind consumer tech. Still, it is a little worrying that the FCC basically has no idea, and no way to find out, how many devices are illicitly tuning in to Galileo signals.
Expect an update to roll out to your phone sometime soon — Galileo signals will be of serious benefit to any location-based app, and to public services like 911, which are now officially allowed to use the more accurate service to determine location.

FCC approval of Europe’s Galileo satellite signals may give your phone’s GPS a boost